It's bad enough that Costa Mesa and its divisive Mayor Alan Mansoor are getting beat up by their own hometown Daily Pilot columnists (here and here, not to mention that paper's own readers here and, oh, by one of its more distinguished residents here). But now they are getting national unwanted exposure from the organization that Martin Luther King, Jr. helped found, the Southern Poverty Law Center, whose new Intelligence Report piece, The Tinderbox, takes on Mansoor, the City With a Heart and Minutemen co-founder Jim Gilchrist.
A sample graph:
That [Mansoor-led, anti-immigrant] campaign has transformed Costa Mesa into a closely watched and especially volatile tinderbox within the raging national debate over immigration. The success or failure of Mansoor's policies could set the tone for how other cities around the country deal with what is quickly emerging as one of the most divisive political issues in the United States. Outside activists from both sides of the debate have flocked to Costa Mesa and declared the city a critical battleground.
Humberto Caspa, a Cal State Long Beach professor and former Daily Pilot columnist, is quoted in the piece saying of the mayor and his supporters, "Their objective is simple: to kick all the Latinos out." Also chiming in is Weekly superstar Gustavo Arellano, warming up to his vast constituency by declaring, "Orange County is the most Mexican-hating county in the country." He should know: he's got the hate mail and racist Ask-a-Mexican letters to prove it. In something of a coup, Gustavo gets the last word in Susy Buchanan's Intelligence Report piece.
The usual suspects surface: gadfly Martin H. Millard spewing his self-described non-racist hate; former police chief Dave Snowden and outgoing chief John Hensley saying Mansoor's policies are making it tough on cops to build trust in the Latino neighborhoods; and City Councilwoman Katrina Foley wondering how the hell her city came to this point, where its other motto, City of the Arts has been shoved aside in favor of becoming the national immigration debate's epicenter.
But where Buchanan succeeds most in pushing this story forward is by talking with average folks, like a restaurant owner who is dealing with empty tables as a result of official and non-official boycotts on city businesses, and Billy Folsom, "a longhaired, tattooed biker and member of the National Rifle Association who repairs police cars for the City of Costa Mesa." Folsom relates this story as he nurses a drink at the pub owned by City Councilman Gary Monahan, Skosh Monahan's:
"I drive cop cars all day long, up and down one little street behind the cop shop." . . . [T]here's a stop sign and a little kid lives in the apartment there, a Hispanic boy maybe 4 years old. He loves to wave at policemen, which he thinks I am because he sees me in the cars everyday." Folsom smiles and waves back as part of his routine.
"Well, the City Council resolution was approved on a Tuesday night. On Thursday, I stop at the stop sign and here comes this little kid. But instead of a smile and a wave, the kid throws a clump of dirt at my car then runs away. That's what this has done to this city."
Consider the SPLC piece the journalistic equivilent of another dirt clod thrown at Costa Mesa, Mansoor and Mansoor's supporters.
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